Although we may not associate the UK with particularly dramatic weather events, flooding and other natural disasters have a significant impact on businesses across Britain every single year. But if you can prepare your franchise before disaster strikes, you can improve your chances of weathering the storm.
By preparing a contingency plan, franchisors and franchisees alike put themselves in a better position on a number of fronts. Minimising the impact of inclement weather means bosses can avoid spending money on restoring premises and equipment, maintain business as usual without losing working hours, and have peace of mind.
How does bad weather affect businesses?
Of all weather conditions, flooding is the most common and widespread natural disaster in the UK and 260,000 commercial properties are in areas at risk of water damage. Snow and extreme heat also cause significant disruption to businesses, while high winds, ice, hail and fog feature lower down on the list of potential problems in the UK.
Bad weather can impact businesses in various ways. For instance, disruption across roads and transport networks can cause a wide range of issues, as employees, suppliers and customers are late or unable to get to the premises. Meanwhile, businesses suffering from flood damage may have to completely renovate their premises.
Small businesses need to get better prepared for extreme weather. However, we know that despite wind, water or fire, many small businesses do manage to stay open and continue to serve their customers.
– Mike Cherry, National Policy Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses
In the UK, small businesses are particularly affected by natural disasters. Around two in three SMEs have experienced the impact of bad weather in the past three years (Federation of Small Businesses). And one in four have lost money after neglecting to check or prepare for weather conditions (Met Office).
Businesses often end up paying thousands of pounds to resolve issues caused by poor weather, so it’s worth thinking ahead and implementing a rock-solid plan.
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How to build a contingency plan for bad weather
Don’t wait until the storm hits to deal with the damage; developing an action plan in advance will improve your ability to handle the situation when the time comes.
1. Identify the risks
Every business is different, so you’ll need to think about how your franchise might be affected by different types of natural disasters and how you can protect it when crises strike. Consider factors such as buildings, stock, equipment, staff and operations. For example, is your property likely to flood? How do your staff get to work? Can your employees work from home if necessary?
Once you understand the biggest risks facing your business, you can start to plan how you’ll prepare for and respond to weather phenomena.
2. Review your insurance policies
Having the right insurance cover in place can help you quickly return to business as usual, so make sure you’ve invested wisely. Calculate the cost of closing your franchise business for one week, one month and six months; this will help your insurance provider understand the cover you’ll need.
You could even ask your insurance provider to complete a weather-related risk assessment on your business to give you peace of mind, knowing you’ll be covered if the worst happens.
Make sure you’ve got building and contents insurance, as well as a business interruption policy. When you’re covered for both, you should be able to keep your franchise business running and continue paying the bills, even if you're forced to stop trading temporarily.
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3. Create a communication strategy
It’s no good developing a brilliant scheme and forgetting to tell anyone else about it. Firstly, you’ll need to let everyone know the point at which you’ll put your plan into action. Secondly, you must tell everyone in your network what they need to do when the time comes. On the day, you should also give all your employees a call to make sure they’re safe and understand their responsibilities.
When you first craft your contingency plan, you should think about how you’ll get in touch with everyone. Knowing whether you’ll use email, video software, phone calls or texts to spread the word will save you time on the day. You can make the process even easier by having a comprehensive and easily accessible database of contact details ready ahead of time. Don’t forget to include your insurers and local authority.
If your business is open to customers and suppliers delivering products, or if you have scheduled client meetings, you need to make people aware of the changes you’ve made. You could use social media to communicate with customers, for example.
4. Make a ‘to do’ list to protect your premises
There are many steps you can take to prepare your franchise premises for weather damage - here are some of the most common ones:
- Maintain roof gutters and drains to reduce the chances of rainwater entering your premises
- Use sandbags at the entrance to your premises to stop water getting in
- Raise electronic equipment, paper documents and any other valuable items off the ground
- Secure loose outdoor items at risk of getting damaged by high winds
- Back up your computer systems and make copies of data, and store them in a safe place
- In your contingency plan, make sure you know which tasks you’ll prioritise and when you’ll complete them.
Prepare your franchise for bad weather ahead of time
It’s worth checking the forecast on a regular basis to stay up to date with expected weather changes. It only takes seconds out of your day, and could have a significant impact on your business’s ability to survive natural disasters. Being able to prepare your franchise in advance not only limits the risk of damage occurring, but also makes the recovery process run more smoothly if anything does go wrong.
These days, you don’t even have to do the hard work yourself; you can sign up to receive Met Office severe weather alerts. You may also want to register for Floodline Warnings Direct by calling 0345 988 1188. This free government service sends you automated flood notifications by phone, text or email, 24 hours a day.
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The Editorial Team, Point Franchise ©